Moral Low Ground

War & Peace

Allied Aerial Bombardment Scatters Gaddafi’s Forces from Misrata

Sustained allied air strikes lasting nearly 12 hours have halted the Libyan military’s bloody five-day assault on Misrata, a key rebel-held town 130 miles (210 km) east of the capital city of Tripoli. According to Britain’s Guardian, the aerial bombardment destroyed tanks and artillery and sent many of dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s forces fleeing from the city. The government siege had claimed almost 100 lives from random shelling, fierce urban combat and snipers.

Those snipers, which aren’t easy for aircraft to spot and destroy, are still terrorizing Misrata’s residents. “A lot of people are still afraid to leave their homes,” one doctor told the Guardian.

Mohammed Ali, who works at Misrata’s main hospital, recounted for the Guardian how the allied air strikes routed Gaddafi’s armored forces:

“They bombed a lot of sites of the Gaddafi army. There is a former hospital where his tanks were based. All the tanks and the hospital were destroyed. A column of tanks was destroyed on the edge of the city. After that there was no shelling. We are very relieved. We are very grateful. We want to thank the world. The Gaddafi forces are scattered around. All that is left is the snipers and our fighters can take care of them.”

Ali said that government attack on Misrata was “hell,” with “whole families wiped out” and 94 people– 60 of them civilians– killed and another 1,300 injured. The town, he said, has had no water or electricity for the last 9 days. The hospital where he works is running on generator power.

Ali added that Misrata residents want coalition forces to continue their air strikes until all of Gaddafi’s troops are dispersed.

Near Ajdabiya, a different story is emerging. Pro-Gaddafi forces there have mounted a fierce resistance for three days despite coalition air strikes. Fleeing residents tell of continued killing of civilians by government forces, many of whom are foreign mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa.

Government forces also continue to attack Zintan, in the western part of the country. “The town is completely surrounded,” one resident told Reuters. “The situation is very bad. They are getting reinforcements. Troops backed with tanks and vehicles are coming. We appeal to the allied forces to come and protect civilians.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s Telegraph reports that the Gaddafi regime is claiming the allied bombing campaign has resulted in more than 100 civilian casualties. General Carter Ham, head of US Africa Command, retorted that while he couldn’t say for certain that there were no civilian deaths caused by coalition air strikes, “we are being very, very precise and discriminating in our targeting.” “There have been more instances than I can think of in the conduct of this campaign where our pilots have made the correct decision to not attack a legitimate military target for concern of the civilian casualties,” he said.

Rebel leaders have publicly stated that even if there are civilian deaths, they are a necessary price to pay in order to prevent Gaddafi’s forces from slaughtering far greater numbers of innocent people.

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